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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Mass. teacher fired for her TikTok videos loses First Amendment federal appeal

    A local teacher who was fired for her controversial TikTok videos has lost her First Amendment federal appeals case against the school district.

    Kari MacRae sued Hanover school officials and the district after she got the boot from Hanover High School once her social media videos surfaced in 2021.

    The math and business teacher — who posted the videos about critical race theory, gender identity, and other contentious issues as a candidate for Bourne School Committee — eventually lost the First Amendment case in Massachusetts U.S. District Court.

    The free speech lawsuit was then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

    “Now on appeal, MacRae implores us to do some course correction and fix what she says the district court got wrong,” the appeals court wrote in its recent decision. “After taking the time to carefully review both sides’ arguments, however, we conclude that the district court got it right.”

    MacRae while campaigning for the Bourne School Committee, which was before she was hired as a Hanover teacher, had liked, shared, posted, or reposted several controversial memes on TikTok.

    She said in a campaign video, “So pretty much the reason why I ran for school board and the reason why I’m taking on this responsibility is to ensure that students, at least in our town, are not being taught critical race theory. That they’re not being taught that the country was built on racism …

    “… They’re not being taught that they can choose whether or not they want to be a girl or a boy,” MacRae added. “It’s one thing to include and it’s one thing to be inclusive. And it’s one thing to educate everybody about everything. It’s completely another thing to push your agenda. ... With me on the school board, that won’t happen in our town.”

    A few months after her election win, MacRae interviewed for a teaching position at Hanover High — where officials did not know about her TikTok posts or that she was an elected member of the Bourne School Committee. Among the students MacRae was hired to teach were both Black and LGBTQ+ students.

    “Soon after starting there, MacRae’s TikTok posts came to light and things hit the proverbial fan,” the appeals court wrote.

    The school district fired MacRae, saying in the termination letter that her employment “would have a significant negative impact on student learning.”

    As a result, MacRae took the district to court, arguing the district had “unconstitutionally retaliated against her for exercising her First Amendment rights.”

    “MacRae did not take her termination on the chin,” the appeals court wrote about the Republican who’s now running for a State Senate seat.

    In response to the lawsuit, the school officials said preventing disruption to the learning environment outweighed MacRae’s First Amendment interests, and the U.S. District Court agreed with the school officials.

    The Appeals Court in its ruling wrote, “Given the circumstances both at Bourne and at Hanover, Defendants were eminently reasonable in predicting disruption would be forthcoming if they did not act.”

    School officials “consistently testified that students would not feel safe or comfortable learning from MacRae, given the potential to perceive some of her posts as transphobic, homophobic, or racist,” the appeals court wrote.

    The ruling continued, “Coupled with the undisputed evidence that some Hanover High students and teachers were aware of MacRae’s posts and were discussing them, there is ample evidence to conclude that Defendants were reasonably concerned disruption would erupt, just as it did in Bourne.”

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